The Church in the Forest is beautifully suited for music in that is has both excellent acoustics and fine musical instruments. Of particular importance is the Greg Harrold pipe organ built and installed in 1992. This baroque instrument is perfectly sited high in the rear balcony. The traditional wine-glass shaped cabinet is made of mahogany. Pipe work is of wood and tin alloys; the exposed front metal pipes are gilded, polished and embossed. The wonderful acoustics of Erdman Chapel enhance the tonality of this exceptional instrument. In addition, Church in the Forest acquired a Steinway Model B Grand Piano in 1995 to complement its wonderful music program.
The music program at Church in the Forest is under the direction of Melinda Coffey Armstead. Melinda, a pianist, has performed as recitalist and chamber musician in the US, Canada, England, France and Israel. She has recorded over sixty recitals for the CBC and on CD for Waterlily Records, Toronto and Meridian Records, London. She has recorded three CDs of solo piano pieces: "Season of Dreams" (meditative pieces and lullabies), "Beyond Words" (Romantic showpieces) and "Christmas Reflections" (contemporary arrangements of traditional carols.)
As Music Director of Church in the Forest, Melinda programs and performs in about 52 "mini concerts" annually. The resources available include a beautiful baroque style pipe organ, a Steinway 7' grand piano, a ROLAND S 88 synthesizer, a budget to hire professional instrumentalists and vocalists, and the freedom to choose the best available. A congregation that loves and actively supports great music makes this possible. Melinda programs extensive classical repertoire, but occasionally includes popular styles, Dixieland, jazz, Celtic and Folk.
Melinda also writes a weekly column, The Music Box, in the church bulletin into which she says, "I empty my thoughts, sensible or otherwise. Often these are very informative musicologically, but when the facts are dull I make up better ones, going well beyond informative."
Well known to audiences as well as musicians on the central coast, Melinda has a well-qualified staff of assistants who perform in her absence.
"...Melinda Coffey Armstead, who serves as music director of the Church in the Forest, is a treasure. That this critically acclaimed keyboard artist makes our community her home offers her considerable talents so generously counts as one of our region's musical blessings. Coffey's superb pianism and ability to seem graciously at home in a wide variety of performing circumstances has earned her a reputation as both a stellar accompanist and enchanting soloist." Monterey County Herald review, January 16, 1999.